You know that snazzy little iPhone you won’t leave home (or even a room) without? The one that has you in constant communication with your clients and your office? And what about your micro-thin laptop or iPad that allows you to draft documents and access client files via the firm’s server. Yeah, turns out nowadays, for most of us, our office travels right along with us. My 9 to 5 job looks more like an on-call situation.
Even though our ability to perform our jobs remotely via iPhones, iPads, and other technologies has turned us all into little portable profit centers, firms haven’t really adjusted their approach to the typical workday. Most of us are dutifully reporting to work every morning by 9 and staying till 5 (and often later) in the evening AND still responding to emails and client calls once we are home at night and on weekends. I think a lot of us would prefer more flex in our work schedule, more freedom and control over our daytime hours, and maybe even a shot at obtaining that elusive work-life balance.
It’s about time we start taking more control of our work lives by demonstrating that our value to the firm and our clients extends beyond the four walls of our office. Whether you are looking for a more flexible work schedule, want to see your significant other or kids more, or simply prefer working on a beach or in the local coffeehouse, here are some suggestions for grabbing greater control over your 9 to 5:
Evaluate your satisfaction with the status quo and assess your ability to work effectively outside of the office. Checking emails while running errands is very different from billing an equivalent work day out of the office. Are you still a great producer while sitting on the patio or at hipster coffee shop? Would you prefer mornings in the office and afternoons in your home office? Are you a night owl who works best from your couch or home office after hours? Knowing how you work will best maximize your billable time.
Initiate a dialogue with firm management about their expectations for you in the office. Do they care about seeing your face? Or do they care about billing? If it’s just about billing, then perhaps you don’t need to keep your regular office hours so long as you can bill, bill, bill out of the office.
Ask for what you want. If you don’t, you are unlikely to ever get it. If you are dissatisfied with the demands of the office, the location of your job, or just hoped practicing law was going to provide more freedom than the average bank teller, why not find out if you can grab some greater job satisfaction by loosening up the tether that makes you feel less like a professional and more like a worker bee. If the firm likes you back, it’s likely they will be open to letting you tweak a few things so you will stay.
Keep Pushing. Even if your firm is reluctant to let you change the entire office workday paradigm (lest you start a revolt!), don’t give up on trying to shift your firm’s focus off the time you are in the office to the value you provide to the firm. Even small changes to firm culture take time. Start small. Find an ally on the firm management committee that recognizes value in providing its lawyers with better work-life balance and views technology as a tool for empowering lawyers with greater autonomy and freedom.
Much of what us lawyers lament about the practice of law is squarely within our control. It’s never too soon to start pushing for those changes that will provide you with greater job satisfaction. So what are you waiting for?